The Regional School Unit 9 school board voted Tuesday to allow the Mt. Blue High School cross country runners to participate in postseason meets.

In September, state agencies and the Maine Principals’ Association agreed on a plan to allow most high school sports this fall during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was decided that two of the fall sports, golf and cross country, were considered low-risk and would not be limited to regional schedule. Therefore, conference and state meets — but not regionals — are allowed.

Soon after the MPA and state’s decision, RSU 9 decided to opt out of interscholastic competition, meaning that none of Mt. Blue’s teams would be competing against those from other schools.

Then, on Tuesday, the Franklin Journal reported the school board voted 12-4 in favor of allowing Mt. Blue runners to compete at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and Class A state championship meets.

The Franklin Journal reported that some RSU board members said that cross country’s low-risk designation by the state means Mt. Blue runners should be allowed to participate in the state meets, while others expressed concern about the fairness of allowing athletes from one sport to compete when the rest cannot.

“I do have a problem with singling out any one sport to give approval, and I also would just like to point out that we heard in our public participation very polarized comments on how teachers feel for safety in our schools, and I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize their safety,” Wilton board member Cherieann Harrison said.

The Cougars will participate in the KVAC Class A meet Saturday. Though cross country is designated as a low-risk sport, the meet will still have COVID-19 safety measures in place.

“Usually the KVACS are at Cony and they have the girls and boys A and B as four different races,” Mt. Blue athletic director Chad Brackett told the Sun Journal on Wednesday. “This year they divided A and B at different sites. The A site is Cony and they are, instead of having one girls race and one boys race, they are going to have half of the teams’ girls race in the morning, half of the boys teams in the morning and the other half of the teams from KVAC A are going to a do girls race in the afternoon and a boys race in the afternoon.

“So that no more than 42 kids are running in any given race. They are going to go off in waves and wear masks right up to the starting line, and when a race starts, they can take their masks off. They need to carry them with them. When they cross the finish line, they can’t linger.”

Mt. Blue runners who qualify will compete at the state championships at Saxl Park in Bangor next month. The boys championships will be held Wednesday, Nov. 11, and the girls on Saturday, Nov. 14.

Sun Journal sports reporter Tony Blasi and Franklin Journal staff reporter Andrea Swiedom contributed to this report.

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